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Marrero seeks to complete GS strategy and enrollment plans in first 90 days
Graduation format to be reviewed – after May’s ceremonies
Marrero 1st Day.jpg
In front of portraits of past presidents of the school that is now Georgia Southern University, new GS President Dr. Kyle Marrero takes questions from reporters Monday in Statesboro. (AL HACKLE/staff)

In his first 90 days as Georgia Southern University’s president, Dr. Kyle Marrero wants to help complete the university’s strategic plan and develop master plans for enrollment growth and marketing, he told reporters Monday.

Monday was Marrero’s first day as president of the university, which has more than 26,000 students on residential campuses in Statesboro and Savannah, at a commuter campus in Hinesville and online. He walked through the Statesboro campus, meeting students, and gave a brief media conference in the lobby of the Marvin Pittman Administration Building before going to Savannah for similar activities on the Armstrong campus.

“First off, our strategic plan, which the university has started on, the institutional strategic plan, is critical,” he said. “It’s the direction, it’s the vision, it’s the way in which we measure success for the next five or six years.”

The question, from a Savannah TV reporter, had been about Marrero’s first tasks after this week’s flurry of meet-and-greet activities.

Others at the university were working on the strategic plan prior to his arrival, Marrero noted.

“I’m going to help finish that out in the first 90 days,” he said.


Focus on enrollment

“Second will be a strategic enrollment plan, which is critical for us to identify and really be reaching out to those constituencies  throughout our  region geographically, to make sure that that aligns  with our strategic plan and that students, parents, those who want to come to Georgia Southern to improve their lives through education, they know about us,” Marrero continued.

As reported here in December, Georgia Southern’s fall 2018 enrollment was down 3.8 percent from the fall 2017 combined enrollments of Georgia Southern and Armstrong State University. Most of the drop occurred at the Armstrong campus.  Marrero is the first regularly hired president to arrive since the former ASU was absorbed into the Georgia Southern brand in the Jan. 1, 2018, consolidation.

Dr. Jaimie Hebert, who worked with Armstrong’s last presidents to lead the universities through the consolidation process mandated by the Board of Regents of the University System, was Georgia Southern’s president from July 1, 2016 until his resignation became official last June 30. He is now provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he attained all of his academic degrees.

Shelley C. Nickel, the University System of Georgia’s executive vice chancellor for strategy and fiscal affairs, served as interim Georgia Southern president for 10 months, through last week.

Along with completion of the overall strategic plan and enrollment planning, Marrero mentioned a marketing plan as another objective for his first 90 days.

“The third leg of that stool then is a strategic marketing, branding and communication plan,” he said. “We want to get a unified vision for the one Georgia Southern, the one Eagle Nation, that brings the entire region together and that people know that story and see us as one institution with three distinctive campuses.”


‘K-16’ collaborative

“So that’s 90 days, and then after that I’m going to be working on an education collaborative, a K-through-16 approach to talent development within the entire region, so that’s really going to be our first three to six months,” Marrero said.

“K-16” refers to education from kindergarten through four years of college. At the University of West Georgia, where Marrero was president for the past five years and nine months, he worked with the local school system to found the Carrollton-Carroll County Education Collaborative.

The state Board of Regents chose him for the Georgia Southern presidency in January. A committee from the Georgia Southern campuses worked with a search firm to advertise the job and screen applicants before sending the regents a short list of candidates.

Marrero arrived for the brief news conference near midday with his wife, Dr. Jane Marrero, and their daughter Lily, 9. Jane Marrero is a nationally known opera singer.

Kyle Marrero holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vocal performance from Bowling Green State University and a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Michigan.


Graduation question

Marrero begins his presidency six weeks before spring graduation, and months after a plan for the ceremonies was put in place by a committee of Georgia Southern administrators.

Graduates will have their names called and receive diploma covers during college-specific ceremonies held only in the headquarters cities of each of the eight-subject area colleges.

Since each of these colleges also has students and courses in the other city, hundreds of students will need to travel from Statesboro to Savannah, and vice versa, to participate. These ceremonies will be held May 10 and 11 at the Savannah Conference Center and at the Statesboro campus’ Hanner Fieldhouse.

A university-wide ceremony will be held at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro at 9 a.m. May 11 with a featured speaker but without individual students’ names being called for them to walk across the stage. The university is offering graduates and their guests bus transportation, reservations required, to the ceremonies.

The Statesboro Herald asked Marrero if this will be the long-term solution for graduation in future years or only a trial phase.

“I think it’s important that we assess it, we go ahead and have the graduation ceremonies as planned, as they’ve put in place,” he said.

“They’ve worked really hard for that, through committee structure, to identify a way in which to honor each of the colleges and the locations with graduation, so this will be new. Like anything new, that’s difficult. Change is always hard,” Marrero continued. “So we’re going to assess it, we’re going to see what the experience is like, we’re going to bring students, faculty and staff, meeting together, get their opinion and see if this is the way in which we move forward in the future.”


Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

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